Be a Strong Woman!

Disclaimer: Our bloggers are not health experts. Contact your physician if you have questions about how hormones affect muscle growth or if you are thinking about starting a new exercise program.

By: Lydia Scott

The Struggle is Real

I have a struggle. The struggle is real. The struggle is kind of a pain in the patootie. See, I’m a big supporter of strength training. I can’t recommend it enough. Strength training is fantastic! I tell everyone I know who asks what kind of exercise I do. And when I tell them lifting weightsthe different things I do, and I get to the part about “strength training” and “lifting weights,” nine out of ten of the women respond exactly the same: “What? Lift weights? No way! I don’t wanna look like a guy, ewww!”

Then you hear the loud, frustrated sigh slipping from my lips. DUDE! Why in the world do you think working to be stronger is going to turn you into a, well…a dude? Really? You think some 100-lb leg presses are going to give you Mr. Universe thighs? Some 15-lb Preacher Curls are going to send you to the guys’ clothing section for white tanks so you can “kiss those guns?” Weekly 70-lb deadlifts are going to have you in a sumo-style diaper on the Power Lifter channel?

That’s not how the female body works. Unless you have a major hormonal imbalance, or you train for years specifically to be a competitive body builder through extremely intense diet and targeted training, you will not look like a dude. Or even dude-ish. You need higher levels of testosterone to really build bulky muscles. The physiology that makes you a female also directs your muscles to keep themselves on the long, stretched out, and softly sculpted side. Whereas, the physiology that makes a guy a guy directs their muscles to grow big and bulky, fast.

Don’t take my word for it though. Let these fitness experts share their insights on women and why weight training shouldn’t scare them:

“Muscle burns fat. All you need to know!”

- J’Aimee Mechling, Personal Trainer and Wellness Director

“Strength training accentuates your natural silhouette. Once you burn the fat, you build up the muscles that were hidden and naturally create a beautiful shape. You determine how muscular you want to look, and cater your workout regimen towards that goal. Hourglass or body builder? It’s up to you!”

- Miriam Smith, Certified Nutrition and Wellness Consultant, AMPS Lifestyle Change.

Burn it!

Did you notice? Muscle burns fat. Yes. Muscle takes more calories to keep it going than fat does. If you weigh 150 pounds with a good supply of muscle, your body will automatically burn more calories just existing than if you weighed 150 pounds but have little muscle.

And me? Why do I do Preacher Curls, Romanian Deadlifts, standing kickbacks, chest presses, and an assortment of other strength-building exercises? For all the reasons J’Aimee and Miriam listed, plus I’m just sick of being weak. I mean, don’t you want to be able to toss that 20-pound bag of dog food in your grocery cart like it’s a sack of feathers? Or swing your 40-pound toddler around without getting sore or breathless? Don’t you want to be able to eat more without gaining a bunch of extra fat? Don’t you want to burn lots of calories all day and all night, instead of just the 45 minutes while you jog/row/bike/walk/dance? I do! I don’t like feeling weak when I know I don’t have to be. I love seeing my pants getting baggier, my legs and booty getting smoother and more shapely, and yet…I am not starving and I’m not slowly looking more dude-like.

Give it a try. Here’s a challenge to everyone whose doctor has approved them to engage in an exercise regimen like this: Twice a week, spend just 5 minutes lifting something. Your leg, the milk jug, the full laundry basket, a backpack. Then the next week, do it a little longer. Check back in a few weeks to let me know how it’s going!

Be a strong woman!

Déjà Brew Skin Scrub

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

coffee

You know how a good cup of coffee can get you going in the morning, but did you know that coffee can also brighten your skin and temporarily minimize cellulite? That’s why I love this recipe for coffee skin scrub, a wonderful way to reinvigorate your skin and your senses in the shower. It’s also a great way to reuse your morning coffee grounds.

Homemade Coffee Sugar Scrub Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup Ground Coffee
  • 1/2 cup Used Ground Coffee
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 1/2 cup Coconut Oil
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon

Directions

  • Pour sugar and coffee grounds into medium sized bowl.
  • Mix in coconut oil (add more if you like a wet consistency).
  • Add cinnamon and mix well.
  • Place mixture in lidded container.

Enjoy!

Homeschooling Update

By: Leah Prescott

I thought it was about time to give you guys a little homeschooling update now that most of second grade is behind us. I didn’t want to write this update a month ago, because, for me, that January-February stretch is always the hardest time of homeschooling (and parenting, come to think of it). Now that March is here, we are looking forward to warmer weather and longer days. And since I’m feeling positive about our educational journey and where it is taking us, now is the time to share.

Homeschooling

Homeschooling

This has been a challenging but good year for us. It has been an absolute joy to watch both of my 8-year-olds gaining independence and taking more responsibility for their own learning. As they settle into a routine of daily reading I am reminded of my own fervent love for the written word! This week I have seen my daughter enthusiastically pouring over the very same, well-worn copy of Little House on the Prairie that I read myself at her age. Moments like these give me a thrill that I cannot describe. It’s those “joy of parenting warm fuzzies” that sometimes come between all the late night wakings and endless laundry. They may be rare, but they are better than caffeine for keeping a mom going!

Homeschooling

We are still enthusiastically participating in our twice-a-week hybrid program with our homeschooling partners. During those two days we get all the perks of a traditional classroom, but during the other three we’re back at home or out in the real world. I get a break from being full-time Mama on those days and the kids get time with friends and teachers who are so much more experienced than I am. It’s a great compromise for our family.

Homeschooling

One of my biggest challenges this year has been dealing with my youngest, who will be three in a couple months. He is a handful and sometimes I think his main goal is to distract everyone from their own tasks. I’m sure his endless energy is going to result in a strong, intelligent young man. For now, I often feel ill-equipped to parent him! However, we have had a lot of improvements since the school year began. He is able to focus on more “academic” activities now and he is having great fun learning “big-kid” skills like cutting with scissors and tracing letters. Like his big sisters, he loves a good book. The rest of the time, he is running around pretending to be a superhero and jumping off the furniture.

Homeschooling

As always, getting out of the house is high on my list of priorities to maintain sanity. To keep us all motivated, we often get started on schoolwork first thing in the morning, and get a bulk of it done in time to jump in the car and head to the library, the zoo, a museum, the park, or even a Chick-fil-a playplace. The big girls try to maximize their car time with practicing math facts. Around Christmas we bought them each a Flashmaster and it has really helped them. Although it’s basically just an electronic flashcard, they seem to really enjoy using them, which was NOT the case with traditional flashcards.

Homeschooling

Finally, we have had a bit of a break-through in the home management arena: I have started meal planning. Now, try not to laugh out loud. I know this is the most basic and obvious skill, only a small step up from microwave macaroni, but I can be slow sometimes. Simply compiling an organized grocery list and jotting down meals for each dinner of the week has proven so helpful. I have also reduced our grocery trips to once a week which has been difficult for me, but totally worth it from a practical as well as a financial standpoint.

Homeschooling

So that’s a bit of an update for us. I guess this semester I’ve been learning the importance of planning, flexibility and patience. Come to think of it, these are some of the same things that I want my children to learn as they grow into adults. As elementary as these concepts are, I still have to remind myself each day to practice these simple life skills!

Survivormode: Part I

By: Katie Austin 

You would think that life after cancer would be easy. Treatments are in the distant past, visits with the medical staff are less frequent, my hair is getting longer, and food tastes amazing. All I dreamed about during my cancer fight was to get back to normal.

But then, is life ever truly “normal?” Was it “normal” before I started this journey?

Breast Friends – Katie and Brandy

Breast Friends – Katie and Brandy

My mind wanders, thinking about all of the things I did before cancer and what I am doing after cancer. Then I question how much of what I was doing before my cancer journey is still active in my life and what “new” things I have taken on.

I take out a sheet of paper, make two columns (“Before” and “After”), and begin writing down all of my thoughts. If there is something that I did before and am doing now, I list it in both columns. I continue this process until I can no longer think of anything else to write down. After I am finished, I sit back and look at my list, and it becomes clear.

Do you think my list is longer on the “Before” or “After” side of the page?

You might be surprised to read that the “After” column is longer. How can that be? I don’t have the energy to do all the things I used to do in a day. But there on paper, it is clear that I have more on my plate now than I did before my cancer diagnosis.

How can that be? I thought I had everything in my life balanced.

To dive deeper into my list, I take the “After” list and begin checking off each item that I feel is something that clearly defines who I am or what I want to accomplish in life. Then, it hits me and I begin to cry.

I am keeping myself busy so that I don’t have to think, feel or relive anything to do with cancer. If I keep myself busy enough, then I don’t have to worry. I am hiding from the fact that I lost close friends last year to cancer, that I have several friends who are fighting now, and that I am always looking over my shoulder to see if cancer will raise its ugly head again.

And then, I had an Aha! moment: I can’t outrun what will always be with me. I will always have cancer but it will not always have me.

I realized that I was clearly in what I would call, “survivormode.” I am doing everything and anything because I am scared to not be a part of life, because cancer took such a big part of my life. It’s one thing for me to protect myself but I can’t actively be a part of life if all I am ever doing is being busy.

Like a movie ending that leaves you hanging, this where I am going to leave you (for now). :) I am going to begin taking steps to get to the healthier, happier me and will be sure to write about my progress in future blog posts. That way, I will be able to share what I learned along the way.

Until then, wishing each of you a blessed day and looking forward to seeing you back at the Every Woman Blog!

Oh Stop It! Not 40! Seriously???

By: Shannon Shull

Ok, so I admit it, when people say to me, “Oh stop! You are not turning 40! Seriously!?” well, I secretively like it, even if they are totally faking their sweet shock. Of course, it’s only after I’ve broken in and divulged the information to some endearing person that can relate, that I ever tell anyone my age.

Sssssshhhhhhhh!!!! Don't tell anyone

Sssssshhhhhhhh!!!! Don’t tell anyone

I quite enjoy not letting anyone know my real age. In fact, I refuse to tell my students how old I am. Kids can be brutally honest, so when my students discover that I have kids of my own and make claims about how they can’t believe I have an 11 and 9 year old, then proceed to guess my age in the 20s or early 30 range, well, let’s just say I prefer to keep their thoughts thinking just that! Suits me fine, I’m won’t lie about that.

So why is that? Why am I literally dreading turning 40?!? Ugh… I get a bad taste in my mouth when I even think about it. Sad, I know. It’s just that I eternally think of myself as a young person. I can’t help it. And now the harsh reality of life is smashing a pie in my face and it’s not funny. How can I seriously be entering my 40s? I mean, I still think of my own mother as being in her 30s!

My Mama & Lil Shannon - Oh to just be a child again!

My Mama & Lil Shannon. Oh to just be a child again!

It’s been an interesting adventure witnessing other friends turn 40. Everyone seems to have a different take on some level. Some, like me, dread it. And, some even go so far as to refuse to talk about or even dare celebrate it. Others go all out and throw down, rockin’ the town with their besties. Some take it very seriously and torture their bodies so that they can enter their 40s with a bod they can also celebrate – we’re talking botox, liposuction, harsh diets and exercise, the whole shebang. And then some let the day pass like “it ain’t no big thang,” it’s just another birthday to them.

…insert deep breath accompanied by a dramatic moan…

I’m thinking I may be a combination of all these different takes. If money was of no concern, I would go full out with body improvements and take myself on some fabulous trip in which I’d do nothing but eat, drink and live up every moment celebrating my grand entrance into the 40s. But alas, my busy schedule will not allow for that. Not to mention, anyone who has an inkling of how us teachers get paid for all our hard work… well, you get my drift. So no fanciness for me, but I do have all the things that money can’t buy!! And that, my friends, is what makes life worth living! All these beautiful things in my life, for which I am ever thankful, will make entering my 40s not-so-bad after all.

I came across this fabulous article written by a lady who has quickly become one of my favorite writers. Christina Vuleta has a fantastic article on the Huffington Post called, “15 Things to Love About Turning 40.” I’m really thankful I came across this article. Let’s just say I needed to read these wise words of hers at this time in my life! I want to share some of the incredible points that she brings to our attention because, well, they’re pretty priceless.

Some things to love and embrace about turning 40…

“You realize that all those people you think are so confident and lead perfect lives… are just as screwed up as everyone else. 

You learn that it’s a waste of time comparing the worst of yourself (your insecurities and flaws) with the best of others (their Facebook profile, family pic, etc.). And on top of it all you realize your flaws may just be assets.”

You know it’s true! People put their best on Facebook and all those other social media sites. Can’t blame them and I’m not slamming anyone, but it’s certainly not fair to compare ourselves to others, ever, because the truth is, we all have our issues! No one is perfect and if they claim to be, de-friend them and RUN – cause they’re not living in reality.

“You ask.
You know your worth and you aren’t afraid to ask for it. You realize that “you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take,” and there really is nothing to lose.”

I can relate to this one because I have certainly learned by this age that we might as well reach out for what we want, reach for those dreams and take chances, because gosh, what in the world do we have to lose!?! The worst we can be told is NO. Better to have tried than to regret not trying.  

“You get your silly on again.
You learn not to take yourself too seriously. You really do dance like no one is watching. You are like a teenager again… but less loud. It’s not for show. It’s for smiles.”

I LOVE this one. Get your silly on! For smiles, NOT FOR SHOW. Amen to that, heh!? The more I’ve learned to just let go and have fun, the more I benefit from it in so many ways. There’s no need to take everything so seriously. If only everyone could just loosen up, the world would be a much better place. :)

“You have resilience.
Nothing is the end of the world. You have been through enough downs to know there eventually is an up. Life is long. Time heals. So just give yourself time… and accept your sadness. It’s part of life.”

Oh do these words ever warm my heart. “Life is long. Time heals. Give yourself time and accept your sadness. It’s part of life.” Man, that’s beautiful.

“You respect yourself.
Meaning you can see when someone else isn’t respecting you and value yourself enough to form an escape plan. Get a mantra. Remind yourself daily of your worth.”

Whoa, now that one is deep and so incredibly true. This is something I’ve had to learn the hard way. But that mantra worked and I do try to remind myself daily of my worth.

“You are more beautiful.
Any 40-something woman who decides to eat well and find one exercise they like to do, looks better than they did at 20. Yes, you may lose the baby fat or spring, but there is beauty in living a full life. You see yourself more kindly. You feel at home in your body, and it shows.”

Oh what a lovely one to wrap this up with! I look back at old pictures and yes, my lines are less deep, there are no grey roots… but I do indeed feel more beautiful now. I’m working on getting back to exercising again like I should be to feel and look better. But, I am more comfortable in my skin. I have a confidence I never had when I was younger and it feels so good. Sure I might be tempted to try out Botox and such if I had the fearlessness to actually try some medical procedure! But for now, I have decided to embrace my lines, imperfections and effects from age. I guess I don’t have much of a choice! Ha! But hey, it sounds and feels better to declare that I am embracing my age.

The 40-year-old happy Shannon

The 40-year-old happy Shannon

So there you have it. I’m going to decide right now that my 40s are going to rock. I am making a promise to myself right now that I’m going to make the best of it. To the best of my ability, I’m going to live my life to the fullest! Daggomit, I’m 40! Just don’t tell anybody, ok? ;)

Goodbye Winter

By: Chaunte McClure

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to say goodbye to Old Man Winter! Enough of the snow threats, frigid temperatures, boots, winter coats, sweaters and gloves. I’m ready to trade it all for warm weather, flip flops, tank tops, maxi skirts, dresses and sandals. Oh yes, and a much needed pedicure. Ahhh…

snow

Okay, now back to reality. That furry little prognosticator, I’m blaming him for the additional layering, bundling and snuggling. That’s right, Punxatawney Phil, it’s all his fault. Earlier this month he saw his shadow. Maybe he should have chosen a different time of day to leave his burrow. But I guess that wouldn’t have been convenient for the media because surely there wouldn’t be breaking news to announce the rodent’s prediction.

Moms, I know you’re tired of the two-hour school delays and school cancellations. I’ve read some of the rants online recently. Admittedly, I was looking forward to a snow day last week, but to my disappointment, the lack of the white stuff and the inaccurate forecast rained on my parade.

I did get to drive to work in snow and sleet Tuesday morning, while thinking, I can’t believe I’m driving in this. I’m not supposed to be driving in this. There should have been a delay. I’m sure many of you shared my sentiments. This state has us spoiled because with a threat for snow, we expect a day off from work or at least a two-hour delay.

Speaking of delay, Spring, please don’t. You don’t have to wait until March 20 to visit us. Your moderate temperatures, colorful blossoms, and longer days are welcome now. (I can live without the pollen, though.) I am longing for your presence.

Let me hear from you. Have you had enough of winter? What do you love about spring?

First Steps

By: Crissie Kirby

An old Chinese proverb says, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

And so, it would seem preparing to run a five-mile race also begins with one step.

training for a race

I was overwhelmed by the support I received after posting my initial blog post about running in the LMC Heart and Sole Five Miler. I’ll be honest, even after posting that I was going to do it, I questioned whether I could really do it. Did I really want to do it? But, as anyone who knows me, once I say I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it, or die trying. Ok, maybe that’s not the best saying for right now.

The training guide said to start the week of February 15th. So, I set my sights on 2/15 and tried to mentally prepare for battle.

The 15th dawned cold and I had started coughing a few days before. (For me this almost always is a sure sign that bronchitis is on the way.) I honestly just didn’t want to do it. But I knew that if I made an excuse one day, I’d find reasons to keep making excuses, and April 25th would come with disastrous results.

training for a race

I journeyed to Aiken for my first run. Why? Well, one of my dearest friends and supporters, Ivy Harmon, lives in Aiken and I knew that she would make me run. And she did. Fortunately, Ivy lives near beautiful and historic South Boundary, so we had a wonderful place for my inaugural training session. Fortunately, Ivy is more active than I am and she was able to really help and encourage me along the way.

training for a race

training for a race

For anyone in Aiken during my initial run, yeah, I’m sorry. I doubt it was very pretty, and I’m pretty glad that there wasn’t anyone who could hear some of the things running through my mind (yes, bad pun intended) during my initial run. But, you know what? I did it. I made it. I ran those six one-minute intervals. And I didn’t die.

So, on to the next steps.

training for a race